Women's & Children's Center Gets a New Name
"I shall now work harder to reinforce the center’s generosity of spirit. The accomplishments of these women will be a legacy to their children, their grandchildren, and to us, their community."
- Catherine M. Lee
When Catherine M. Lee went to her Community Education Foundation (CEF) meeting the morning of Wednesday, April 18, 2012, it seemed like another routine meeting and morning.
But for the staff and teachers of Community Education, District 214 Superintendent Dave Schuler, several CEF Board members, and other special guests that morning, pulling off a surprise dedication for Catherine to honor her work at the Women’s & Children’s Center was foremost on their minds.
The dedication officially renamed The Women’s & Children’s Center (WCC) at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights to The Catherine M. Lee Women’s & Children’s Center.
A crowd of about 50 people, that included members of Lee’s family and alumnae of the center, watched as the unsuspecting honoree received red roses from Carinna Tello, Anna Calderon, Guadalupe Sanchez, and Anna Velasquez. "You are an inspiration. You are an advocate. You are a supporter." These words were heard as the women, who represented the center’s past , present and future, took turns in telling Catherine her attributes that meant a lot to them as they each handed her three red roses.
"It has been my privilege to be a part of the Women’s and Children’s Center," Catherine told the group as she fought back tears. "To place my name with it is an honor that should be given to the dedicated staff, which works with the women and children as if they were their family. And, to the women, who have succeeded, like offspring of a loving family often do," she said.
"To hear their stories of being able to call the doctor and speak in English [themselves] for their child, to study with, and to read to their child, to secure a job that is not minimum wage, or to set up a business of their own—that is the honor that is bestowed daily on the staff, the women, and me," she added. "I shall now work harder to reinforce the center’s generosity of spirit. The accomplishments of these women will be a legacy to their children, their grandchildren, and to us, their community."
Community Education Director Mike Field, who has worked with Catherine for many years, presented her with the plaque that will permanently mark the center. "This could not have happened to a better person," Field said. "Catherine embodies the attributes that we would like the women of the center to emulate. She is the driving force behind the center and it is an honor for Community Education to have her on our team."
District 214 Superintendent Dave Schuler, who suggested the name change earlier in the year, had this to say about Catherine. "She was an inspiration for the establishment of the Women’s and Children’s Center," he said.
"She is the person you would like to be seated next to at a dinner party. Not only does she have class, humility, and grace, but she has traveled extensively, speaks multiple languages, and runs her own international business. It is such a fitting tribute to honor her by naming the center after her," Superintendent Schuler added.
Lee is the catalyst who helped create the center. She has served as a member of the WCC’s Advisory Board and has helped secure funding for its growth. She was instrumental in procuring funds through the Barbara Bush Family Literacy Grant.
About the The Catherine M. Lee Women's & Children's Center:
The Catherine M. Lee Women’s & Children’s Center of District 214 Community Education was established in July 2000. It was created to meet the identified educational and employment needs of low-income, female immigrants residing in the Northwest suburban area, many of whom are victims of domestic violence. The goal is to provide these women with marketable skills and economic independence through employment and access to jobs.
The center has become a haven for many of the women who enter the program with very low English language and basic skills proficiency. Some are even illiterate in their native language. Many women enter the program suffering from low self-esteem, lacking spousal support, lacking transportation, and having infants and toddlers to care for. It takes concerted efforts over several years to overcome the many obstacles these women face.
The success of 12 years of the center's programming has exceeded expectations. The program has benefitted more than 500 women and their families to date by providing ESL instruction, employability skills, computer literacy, parent education, orientation to American culture, counseling and self-help.
Early childhood education for pre-school age children of the women is provided while their mothers attend program activities, further helping the children enter school eager to learn, ready to succeed, and be better prepared to achieve educational parity.
WCC Facts From July 1, 2011 - December 31, 2011
- Average instruction per person - 63 hours
- Total hours of instruction - 3,414 hours
- Number of women who have participated in classes in ESL, work readiness and computer literacy - 54 women
- Number of children who have participated in early childhood education classes and interactive literacy activities with their mothers - 50 children, ages birth to five